Members of a Russian criminal gang arrested in Spain have said they used tens of millions of euros in bribes to “buy” the UEFA Cup won by Zenit St Petersburg this year, a Spanish newspaper said on Wednesday.
Zenit beat Glasgow Rangers 2-0 in the final in May, after trouncing favourites Bayern Munich 4-0 in the second leg match of the semi-final in St Petersburg.
The newspaper ABC said Gennadios Petrov, head of a powerful Russian underworld gang, and one of his cohorts said they used between 20 and 40 million euros to “buy” the semi-final and the final, according to a telephone conversation intercepted by Spanish police.
Spanish police launched an investigation, but have been unable to determine if the gang had contacted players and officials from Bayern and Rangers or if the two were merely bragging.
The newspaper El Pais said that Petrov, in a taped telephone conversation, “said that 50 million had been paid to Bayern. He did not say if it was dollars, euros or roubles, but that the figure was correct.”
A judicial source and the interior ministry decline to comment on “an ongoing investigation,” when asked by AFP.
UEFA said it plans to investigate.
“When there are rumours of this type, our members of the disciplinary committee handle them and we are going to look at this closely,” UEFA spokesman William Gaillard said.
In Germany, Bayern Munich said in a statement it had “no knowledge of such suspicions. We are going to try and obtain all the information about this affair.”
The newspaper El Pais said top Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon had asked German prosecutors to help with an investigation.
It was Garzon who in June ordered the police operation that led to the arrest of around 20 people, including Petrov, and broke up the Tambovskaya-Malyshevskaya gang, one of the largest Russian underworld networks in the world.
Authorities also froze bank accounts containing a total of 12 million euros (17 million euros).
The gang, which has its origins in St Petersburg, used Spain as a base for its top leaders and for money-laundering its gains from illegal activities in Russia and other former Soviet states, according to police.
It was not clear from the reports how the gang planned to benefit from offering the bribes.
But El Pais said the investigation showed that Petrov, who was arrested at a luxurious villa in Majorca, “had interests in Zenit” and in the football in general.
Zenit, on Tuesday were beaten 2-1 at home by Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage.
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